LOS ANGELES — Jurors hearing the involuntary manslaughter case against Michael Jackson’s doctor will not hear directly from the man whose fate they will soon be asked to decide.
Instead the panel will have to choose whether to convict or acquit Dr. Conrad Murray of based on the testimony of 49 witnesses and hundreds of pieces of evidence, including one lengthy police interview with the cardiologist.
The seven-man, five-woman panel didn’t get to hear Murray announce his decision Tuesday, but were rather told by a judge after testimony from a pair of medical experts that there would be no more evidence presented to them.
They were given Wednesday off, which prosecutors and defense attorneys will use to craft their closing arguments — the final words of the case before deliberations begin.
Murray’s decision Tuesday came after 22 days of testimony and serious thought by the doctor, who told Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor the day before that he hadn’t ruled out taking the stand. In the moments before the announcement, with jurors still in the room and the judge huddling with attorneys at a sidebar conference, the doctor held his hands in front of his face, as if in prayer.
Jurors were excused from the courtroom while Pastor advised Murray of his rights to testify or remain silent.
Spectators, including Jackson’s mother, father, brother Randy and sister LaToya, watched from the audience as the judge asked Murray, “Have you made up your mind?”
Murray paused, looked at all his lawyers, seemed to sigh and said, “My decision is I will not testify in this matter.”
Pastor said Murray had properly weighed his options and added, “I certainly will respect that decision.”
Murray, 58, has pleaded not guilty in connection with Jackson’s June 2009 death. He faces up to four years behind bars and the loss of his medical license if convicted.
Prosecutors contend Murray gave Jackson a fatal dose of the anesthetic propofol in the bedroom of the singer’s mansion. Defense attorneys claim Jackson gave himself the dose when Murray left the room.
Jurors were presented with dueling scientific evidence to support each side’s theory, although even a defense expert noted he would not have given the pop singer propofol in his bedroom for any sum of money.
Murray told police two days after Jackson’s death that he had been giving the singer the powerful anesthetic nightly for nearly two months. After the singer’s death, police found bags with basic medical equipment and vials of propofol, but not the advanced equipment prosecutors and experts say the doctor should have had to be administering propofol.
Pastor and attorneys spent Tuesday afternoon finalizing jury instructions, which will give the panel its guidelines for how to view the case. Prosecutors are saying that while Murray was engaged in lawful practices during his treatment of Jackson, he was criminally negligent in many of his actions. The panel will be told that they can consider whether Murray should have known that Jackson’s death was a foreseeable consequence of his actions.
Defense attorneys will be able to highlight the testimony of five character witnesses — which jurors will be told can be sufficient to create reasonable doubt — to illustrate seven traits they claim the doctor has displayed throughout his career: being attentive, informative, skillful, cautious, compassionate, loyal and knowledgeable.
They can also consider whether the character witnesses demonstrated that Murray is selfless and not financially motivated. Prosecutors have cast him as greedy and eager to please Jackson, who had agreed to pay the physician $150,000 per month. The singer died before the contract was finalized.
Although they won’t have any direct testimony from the Houston-based cardiologist to consider, the jury will be able to review the doctor’s lengthy police statement, in which he both detailed his treatments to Jackson and left out any references to his frequent phone use on the morning the singer died.
It is just one of the more than 300 pieces of evidence that were presented during the trial, which so far has lasted six weeks.
— Associated Press